I was on one of my many health kicks a couple of years ago where I decided to try the vegetarian lifestyle. I had read many articles about the health benefits of removing meat from one’s diet and added a few YouTube videos to the mix that seemed to confirm this style of eating. I must admit, it was very hard to keep an open mind as I reviewed much of this info because I felt like I would be joining some type of a cult if I personally embraced the often emotionally presented beliefs of vegetarianism.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be disrespectful to anyone who chooses a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle – more power to them! It just the feeling I got from much of the material I reviewed that those who choose not to embrace this way of eating are foolish and grossly uninformed. I’ll be the first to admit, I am grossly uninformed about many things, nevertheless, I feel I have a pretty good idea regarding what my body needs to feel healthy and provide the energy I need to last the day.
So in spite of my reservations, I decided to give it a shot. The first thing that was required was to go shopping for the right kind of food to make this as pain-free as possible. This included visiting the local health food store and purchasing every kind of “fake meat” I could find. I was surprised to learn they had what looked like bacon, hamburger patties and hot dogs so I bought them all.
I’m sorry to say, these “meatless” meat products were far less than satisfying and some we just plain nasty. The true carnivore within would not be fooled by these not-so-cheap imitations. Honestly, for the most part, I was able to handle a meat free diet if my wife had the time to prepare some delicious entrée. But, if I was hungry and went to the fridge, I just couldn’t bring myself to choosing to munch on rabbit food rather than something that would stick to my ribs.
One thing I noticed was that I seemed to get hungry more often. It’s like the meatless food just didn’t have the staying power to keeping me going. In addition, I started worrying about the level of protein I was consuming. I know there are many sources of natural protein in plant based foods but my body felt like it was missing some important high octane fuel to provide the energy I was accustomed to.
Unfortunately, like so many of my health goals, this new undertaking didn’t last longer than about 30 days and I decided to throw in the towel. There were, though, some very valuable lessons learned. First lesson, don’t waste your money of fake bacon and hotdogs – you’ll be sorely disappointed. The veggie burgers weren’t half bad though. At a little higher level, stick with the real thing. There are many food substitutes in the marketplace designed to fake you into thinking you’re eating healthy when you’re not; fake butter, fake sugar, fake fat, fake meat, fake cheese, fake eggs and the list goes on and on.
The most important lesson I learned – maybe not learned because I always knew it, but was reminded of it – proper nutritional value is made up of many components that need to be correctly balanced for your body to function optimally. Nutritional value is primarily composed of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, sugars and fiber. If your overall diet is lacking in any of these areas, over an extended period of time, your system will begin to show potential serious deficiencies.
Since we’ve been discussing meat or the lack thereof, let’s broaden the topic just a little and discuss “protein” as an important part of any food storage plan. Most food storage companies will attempt to address the need of adequate protein by adding dry beans or TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein made from soy) to their meal plans. Navy, pinto, chili, black and kidney beans are a great source of protein. A cup serving of any of these beans will yield about 40 grams of protein.
According to the USDA, an adult should consume at least .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Since most of us are not adept with the metric system, here’s the US equivalent. You should consume about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For a 150 lb. woman, that would be 60 grams. For a 200 lb. man, that would be 80 grams of daily protein.
If all the math seems confusing, remember that most experts recommend consuming about 20–30 percent of your overall calories from protein foods.
Most meats average around 20% protein which is one of the highest forms of protein available and how most Americans get their daily required amount. Not only is meat the most commonly consumed form of protein, but it’s also usually the center dish of most meals. What would Thanksgiving be without a turkey or ham? How about a BBQ without the burgers and hotdogs? A nice meal at a restaurant without the steak or a piece of fish? Or a nice Sunday dinner without the roast? I think you get my drift. Most of us were raised with meat being the central part of a meal and will find it very trying if that were to suddenly change.
The consequences of not having enough protein in your diet can be severe. Here are a few to consider:
● Heart problems
● Kyphosis or muscle atrophy
● A sluggish metabolism
● Low energy levels and fatigue
● Poor concentration and trouble learning
● Moodiness and mood swings
● Muscle, bone and joint pain
● Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes
● Slow wound healing
● Low immunity
So, how does one accomplish the task of storing enough protein to provide 60 to 80 daily grams of per person to help avoid these maladies? For those who wish to solve this concern the vegetarian way, beans and legumes store very well and are a great approach. For those who would like to continue with their current eating habits and get much of their protein by consuming real meat, your options are limited. Due to the difficult nature of storing meat as the primary source of protein, most choose to ignore this hole in their preps and somehow assume it will all work out – they will be sadly mistaken.
Overlooking this essential part of nutrition and assuming one could naturally and easily convert over to an all plant form of protein can be very problematic. Drastically altering the foods we eat can cause bloating, cramping, dysentery and a feeling of malaise. The last thing you want to do during an already stressful situation is to add to that stress by not consuming foods you are accustomed to.
If you want to store real meat that has an extended shelf life for off grid scenarios, your only option is freeze-dried meat. Freeze-dried meat will last up to 25 years and is very easy to prepare and use. All you need to do is add hot water, let it sit for 10 minutes and you’re good to go. Remember, freeze-dried meat IS the real thing, not some meat substitute or soy product with potential allergen problems. Having the proper amount of protein in your diet is not only essential, but will provide the needed familiar “comfort food” in times of stress and need.